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MISAWA, Japan — Three days before his change-of-command ceremony, Brig. Gen. Bill Rew, 35th Fighter Wing and Misawa Air Base commander, helped cut the ribbon on a deal intended to enhance U.S.-Japanese relations and inspire future aviators.

An F-16A Fighting Falcon dating to 1978 — one of the first F-16s in the U.S. Air Force inventory — was officially dedicated to the Misawa Aviation Science Museum on Tuesday morning. Rew flew the plane as a young Air Force pilot at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and the fighter many years later ended up at Misawa, where it was inactivated.

The F-16 sits in the museum’s Sky Park, making it the only U.S. fighter aircraft on static display in Japan outside of a military installation, Misawa City Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki said Tuesday. Though a donation in spirit, the plane officially is on loan to the museum through an agreement between 5th Air Force and the Japanese government.

Attending Tuesday’s dedication ceremony were Rew, senior Air Force and Navy leaders at Misawa, Suzuki and other Japanese officials and a group of maintainers who helped restore the F-16. A T-33 jet trainer most recently used by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force at Misawa also was dedicated to the museum on Tuesday.

Rew said he’d hoped to accomplish donating the fighter during his tenure as wing commander, noting efforts to hand over the plane began in earnest about five years ago. He said about 60 wing members volunteered their time over many months to refurbish the plane for display.

The F-16 is a “powerful weapon of war but also a tool for peace and stability,” Rew said. “I hope that tomorrow’s aviators will be inspired by this F-16. It gives me tremendous pride on behalf of the U.S. Air Force to … help this already great facility continue to grow.”

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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